It might sound crazy, but it’s 100 percent true: to set your kids up for success, you absolutely have to let them fail. Scraped knees, bruised egos, embarrassing moments, and regrettable decisions don’t feel good in the moment—and the very thought of them can leave many helicopter parents running for the hills—but in the long run, they’re some of the most valuable experiences you can give your daughter. Why? Because it’s those moments of not succeeding that set the foundation for her to become a resilient, forward-thinking leader who approaches challenges with bravery, handles life’s hiccups with confidence, and generally faces life with a can-do (or at least can-try!) attitude.
Now, we’re not suggesting anything as extreme as encouraging her to flunk out of the fourth grade or sending her off for her driving test with zero training, but there are occasions where the benefits of failing far outweigh the momentary discomfort that you might feel as her parent. So, the next time one of these things happens, take a deep breath, step back, and let her do her thing.
She Forgot Her Homework at Home
Whether it’s a big project she’s been working on for weeks or a simple overnight assignment, if she left it on the kitchen table instead of stowing it in her backpack, chances are she’ll call on you for help. Refusing to deliver her work to the school (especially if it’s just around the corner) might seem cruel, but it’ll teach her to own her mistakes, and might make her more responsible in the future.
She Blew Her Allowance
It’s Friday night and she wants to go to the movies with her friends, but she’s already spent all the cash she had on other things. Bailing her out will save you a few hours of dealing with a sulky tween or teenager, but it will also send a message that it doesn’t really matter how or if she spends her money, because you’ll always be there to give her more. (Spoiler alert: that’s not how life works.) Missing out on a fun opportunity will teach her to prioritize her spending and think ahead when making purchases—skills that will take her far in all areas of her life.
She’s Out of Her League
Whether your energetic, yet less-than-coordinated girl wants to try out for the soccer team, or your tone-deaf but lovable daughter wants to audition for glee club, don’t discourage her! Putting herself out there is a brave thing to do, and worth celebrating in itself. And if she doesn’t make the cut? Give her a big hug, talk through the experience (the good and bad!), and rest assured that this disappointment will help her learn to cope with and bounce back from setbacks in her future.
She’s About to Ruin Her Hair
Your daughter wants to chop off her hair and you just know she’s going to regret it? Cool your jets. The truth is, she might look in the mirror after a dramatic haircut and wish she’d never done it—but so what? It’s important to support her self-expression and style. And making questionable decisions (and sporting a few “what-was-I-thinking?!” looks) is a normal part of growing up. A lousy haircut that will grow back in a few months’ time is a lot safer of a risk than many other things she could do.
None of these moments are easy for a parent to get through—there’s not much worse than watching your daughter suffer, especially when you could do something to prevent it—but they’re worth it when it comes to giving your daughter a solid foundation for life. So let go and let her make a few mistakes. If she’s open to acknowledging the mistakes—and even more if she’s willing to talk to you about them—grab the opportunity as a teachable moment. Empathize. Share a time when you made a similar decision and it turned out awful. Consider what you learned, but don’t dwell. It’ll be one of the smartest parenting moves you make.
Letting go can be tricky, but giving her the freedom to grow will pay off.
Having her help with chores makes your life easier, and her future brighter!